ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida on June 26-27. Jakub Zboril is the No. 12-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the 10th overall selection at the draft.
Jakub Zboril is a fundamentally sound defensive player that’s capable of having a great NHL career. The-18-year-old is NHL Central Scouting’s 12th-ranked North American skater entering the draft this June, and could be a steal for whoever takes him if he can reach his potential.
Born and raised in Brno, Czech Republic, Zboril found his passion for hockey at a young age and became a natural defender on the ice. Playing for the HC Kometa Brno’s junior club during the 2013-14 season, he established himself as one of the best young defensive prospects outside of North America while also collecting five goals and 16 assists in 36 games.
As he started to gain attention from teams in the Canadian Hockey League, Zboril decided it was in his best interest to take his talents to North America in order to get a better feel for the different style of play in the CHL, which is more similar to the NHL.
At the age of 17, Zboril was taken fifth overall in the 2014 CHL Import Draft by the Saint John Sea Dogs. In his rookie season with the Sea Dogs, he managed 13 goals and 20 assists despite missing two months due to a knee injury. He finished third in the league among all defensive rookies in points and he scored one goal and two assists in five playoff games before Saint John fell to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the first round.
Former NHL general manager and current analyst on NHL Network and TSN Craig Button has been keeping an eye on Zboril, and has been impressed with the natural instincts that he possess at the rink.
“Jakub is a very good skater with an ease that affords him the opportunity to be very effective defensively and offensively,” reads Button’s analysis in a draft ranking for TSN. “Very smart and poised with the puck where he can make plays that create opportunity and alleviate pressure. He plays all situations in the game with a strong understanding of what is unfolding and finds ways to be a contributor in some form or fashion as required.”
The 6-foot-1, 184-pound defenseman finished the 2014-15 season by being named to the QMJHL Rookie All-Star Team. He was also one of the three finalists for the Michael Bossy Trophy, which is given to the league’s best professional prospect.
Former Saint John head coach Ross Yates said Zboril has the skillset required to boost his stock at the upcoming NHL Draft when asked if he should be taken in the first round.
“He has all the skills, he is a big kid, he has a chip on his shoulders when he plays. So he has a lot of key attributes that scouts will like,” Yates said in an interview with John Moore. “He is a good skater, he sees the ice well, and he has a heck of a shot. He has a lot of things going his way, he just has to put them all together now and improve.”
Becoming a successful D-man in the NHL can be a long and difficult process, but Sea Dogs director of player development and analytics Paul Boutilier doesn’t think Zboril is too far away.
“He plays a really consistent game in all three zones. He has a real mean streak for a European defenseman, so those are real positives,” said Boutilier in an interview with Moore. “Great skills, he has pro skills. He is definitely a type of player that can be successful in the NHL in two to three years. A wonderful player, a great person, and all kinds of abilities. Certainly with the way that he has played over the second half, you can tell that he has settled in.”
The Czech Republic native is one step closer to achieving his dream of playing in the NHL as the draft is fast approaching, and if he can continue to progress, a long successful career could be ahead of him. Whoever gets their hands on him will have a great prospect heading into the future.